|Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes|
Hegemony: the position of being the strongest and most powerful and therefore able to control the others.
Abrahamic religions: Three major religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, that originated through or from the descendants of Abraham.
Patriarchy: a system of society or government in which the father or the eldest male is head of the family and descent is traced through the male line. It is a system which favors males in general, particularly affluent males.,social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, the legal dependence of wives and children, control by men of a disproportionately large share of power.
Feminism: advocating for equal, social political, legal and economic rights for women and men.
Patriarchal overlay: the characteristics of a system of society, belief system or government controlled by men or women who follow an enlightened male or God based religion or is forcibly interwoven after an already established society, belief system or government was in place.
This year, 2015, has been a pretty intense year for me. My home life is good, my family is healthy, I am healthy. Like many people I have a Facebook account and like many people it both makes connecting with the people I love and miss much easier and exposes me to to a lot of news I wouldn't normally be exposed to. Much of this news is ignored by the “mainstream” media and a lot of it is just unpleasant and crazy. What I have noticed is I am being triggered in ways that surprise even me, leaving me to feel angry, frustrated and powerless. It was becoming such a problem I decided to start writing down the things that were disturbing me the most and try to figure out exactly what it is that is triggering me.
If you were to look through my hand bag you would find a little blue notebook, near my computer a larger yellow notebook. Every time something triggers me I write it down. After a while a pattern started to emerge. Things that made me angry includes the elimination of women's rights (duh! I'm a woman!). The conversation in politics about rape, what it is and what it is not. Pedophilia in the Catholic Church and elsewhere. The immense love poured out for pope Francis. The elimination of welfare benefits, drug testing for those that receive welfare or food stamps. The accumulation of wealth by the already very wealthy, the incredible poverty of the already poor. Racism, misogyny, the “war on Christmas and Christians”(in quotes because what war?!), the horrific conditions and exploitation of women and girls and boys around the world including here in the United States. Wars all over the world, the Syrian, South and Central American, and African refugees being left to die and others. The pattern was emerging so clearly that I started making flow charts and drawing arrows from one column to another.
The pattern that I am seeing is threefold. 1.Patriarchal religious hegemony of Abrahamic religions in many places and Eastern religions that have great allure in the West but continue to have a patriarchal overlay in their countries of origin, none of which bodes well for women and children. 2. Men are lashing out at women and children over their perceived loss of power due to heavy pressure to conform to gender norms created by Abrahamic and other religions. These things are intertwined resulting in religious arguments being made for the subjugation of women in political arenas and political arguments being made in religious arenas for the subjugation of women. 3.The hatred of one Abrahamic religion by another and that hatred being inflamed against each other leading to hate crimes, rape, war and human trafficking. In addition, the religious hegemony held by any of the big five religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism) are all trying to erase indigenous earth based and/or Goddess based minority religions or subjugating the Goddesses in existing religions.
I have been studying spirituality and religion for a very long time. At first my studies were informal, reading books, talking to friends and eventually my search left the libraries and card catalogs and moved to the Internet. As I said, I've been at this a very long time. Eventually my studies became more formal. My spiritual and academic studies have always been feminist in nature for a variety of reasons. As a survivor of physical and sexual abuse, I am not a fan of being powerless. I thought the more education I had the more powerful I would become. As a result I am very over educated. I have a B.A. In History, an M.A. In Humanities with a women's history emphasis and a terminal M.A in Philosophy and Religion with a women's spirituality emphasis (terminal meaning I did not write a dissertation and so I do not have a PhD.). This has not resulted in more power.
I have learned so much about how education has lied to me, to you, to everyone. I learned a lot about White privilege, oppression, the omissions in history, misrepresentation and, of course, religion. While I was raised in a secular Christian family, I am no longer Christian. I locate myself as both insider and outsider as a white middle class (formerly) Christian woman who now is a priestess and teacher of a minority religion. While I can pass as middle class, middle aged harmless White woman, I usually don't. I am tattooed, wear too much jewelry and have decidedly uncooperative very curly hair which I generally wear down. Make no mistake though, that is a choice that many among us do not get to make. If my skin was brown I probably would not make the same choices about my outward appearance, but again, I may. I just don't know and that is a privilege, to be able to choose.
I have been poor and I have been (am) not poor. What I have learned is having money gives you the opportunity to be lazy. Any person who says that the poor are lazy have clearly never been poor. When you are poor you never get to say, “I don't feel like cooking tonight, let's go out.” You may get out of cooking because you don't have any food, but that is different. You may get out of doing laundry because you don't have enough quarters for the laundry mat, but then you just have to wash your clothes in the sink or the bathtub. You don't ever get to call in sick from work for a mental health day, or if you are sick, or if your kid is sick. When you are poor you are always scrambling for something; toilet paper, tampons, shoes for your kids, clothes, time... Being not poor is much better and much less stressful because you have bought yourself the opportunity to be tired and act on it. It has not been my education that has pulled me out of poverty. It is my husband. We both graduated the same year from college. Every year since then he has made more money and I have made less. I did what I loved, but the money didn't follow, it ran in the other direction.
Class, race, gender, political affiliation and religion are all powerful unifiers and dividers. What I have been observing is people becoming more entrenched and rigid in their opinions and less willing to become educated about differences- period. The “war on Christmas” is a good example of a unifying and dividing issue (or really non-issue). People started saying Seasons Greetings or Happy Holidays years ago to be kind to people they didn't know at a time of year where many holidays are celebrated by a variety of religions and belief systems. Then Christians started being offended. Fox News, the propaganda arm of conservative zealots, decided that this was a good fire to stoke and stoke it they did. Normally reasonable people started talking about the “war on Christmas” and what are we going to do about it. Stop saying Seasons Greetings, or Happy Holidays ,they say, it's Christmas dammit say Merry Christmas! Stores started putting up signs and clerks started making a point of saying Merry Christmas even if a person was buying Hanukkah candles. Anyone who has gone into a store the day after Halloween knows there is absolutely no war on Christmas! Today is November second, there are Christmas ornaments and decorations in every craft store, supermarket, and department store. Soon there will be the endless loop of Christmas carols in every store driving the people who work anywhere in retail slowly insane. It's not a war on Christmas it's a Christmas war on everyone else that is not Christian. Religious hegemony in seemingly harmless action.
It is not harmless, however. Forcing others to use your language of religious greeting around your holidays is bullying on a grand scale. It “seems” harmless, but like calling someone out of their name daily in a school setting, it is not. It creates conflict in the person on the receiving end. Do I tell them I am not Christian, do I wish them a Happy Diwali, Happy Hanukkah, or Blessed Yule? Do I just say, “Same to you?” There is that moment of stunned silence before the transaction is completed where one must decide to either ignore, comply or resist. Does one deny one's beliefs in that moment to keep the peace? Or does one wish them a Happy Holiday resisting but not confronting? I have found clerks that pointedly look me in the eye and sneer, “God Bless You” when purchasing things that are clearly not Christian. Once I, apparently foolishly, went to Hobby Lobby in search of Hanukkah candles, I use them for my altar because they are the perfect size for my purposes. I couldn't find them and so asked for help. The associate looked at me as if I had horns growing out of my head and said with great disgust, “We don't carry Hanukkah candles here.” I was a little surprised at the vehemence of the answer and replied, “Huh! That seems a foolish choice.” and left never to return to Hobby Lobby.
The frequency and intensity of this type of religious bullying is not limited to adults, nor is it limited to holiday purchasing events. My son goes to public school in Texas. When he was in second grade a group of children in his school decided to take it upon themselves to proselytize to him. This took the form of him not being allowed to pass to go to the bathroom or from the bathroom unless he said he took, “Christ as his personal savior or he was going to Hell.” My son did know what to say. He didn't know what a personal savior was, who Christ was, what Hell was or what any of it meant. He told us after a few days of us asking him what was wrong. He was so stressed out by it he actually got a fever and threw up. After I finally pulled it out of him, I called the principle who nipped that business right away. But still these children learned this behavior somewhere and what they learned is it is okay to bully people who are not Christian and try to force them to be Christian.
This is becoming increasingly the case with all of the Abrahamic religions wherever they hold hegemony. ISIL is a good example of religious fundamentalism gone awry, Netanyahu's policies in Israel towards Palestine are another example of religious fundamentalism gone awry. Carson, Huckabee and Rubio (2016 U.S. Republican presidential candidates) are also good examples of fundamentalism gone awry, while Trump is not a religious zealot he certainly embraces the ideas of fundamentalist capitalism and the over all idea that men are superior to women and white men are superior to all other men. All of these groups embrace a religious ideology that truly hates each of the other groups to such an extent that they want kill them. Whoever is left must submit to the hegemonic rule that is in place in each place. And where does that leave the women while these groups fight about whose God is right? In a place of sexual subservience and as little more than cattle because that is what each of their God's tells them in their “holy” books, all of which originated with Abraham.
This does not mean that men are exempt from exploitation. Those from minority religions, have a moderate or liberal interpretation of Abrahamic religions, or mostly secular men who love and respect women also suffer the effects of religious fundamentalist hegemony. At extremes they are drafted into wars, or forced to watch while their wives and children are raped or killed, or are killed first. While the “regular guy” may not agree with fundamentalists they are often silent in the face of misogyny or child abuse by other men not wanting to make waves, or some kind of hierarchical code I clearly do not understand, or perhaps fear. While Christian fundamentalism has not reached the fever pitch in the United States that religious fundamentalism has reached in other places it is certainly gaining ground. With the rise of that fundamentalism comes historical revisionism, denial of scientific evidence across the board- from vaccinations to climate change to teaching that dinosaurs and humans lived on earth at the same time. There is also the inevitable increase in hate crimes towards racial and religious minorities- both men and women, and women generally.
It is not just Abrahamic religions that have problems with systemic misogyny due to the patriarchal overlay or patriarchal foundation. Buddhist monks have a long history of misogyny. Starting with Siddhartha before he becomes Buddha. He abandons his wife and newborn son to go sit under a tree. What would have happened if she were not a princess and her son not heir to the throne? Certainly not a life of luxury. There are many in the United States that find Buddhism liberatory. They take the ideas within Buddhism and apply them to their lives, like meditation and detachment, for example. These practices have provided great peace in their lives and that is a good thing. In this country though, Buddhism is a minority religion and as a result it is not practiced in the same way that it is practiced in countries where it does hold hegemony. In Burma, for example, Buddhism responds to the needs and concerns of women and children in much the same way that the Buddha did. In fact because of the patriarchal overlay the concerns of women are treated with a casual disdain. Women are seen as needing “protection” from their own health care decisions, interfaith marriage decisions, or autonomy on any level. Like nuns in the Catholic church, Buddhist nuns cannot be fully ordained and are often considered to be less spiritually competent than a new monk only five years old. (This is a simplistic examination but the general idea of patriarchal overlay holds true.).
Hinduism in text holds that men and women are equals, however in the day to day practice in India and elsewhere this is not the case. The practice of dowry, sati (where a widow is thrown/throws herself onto the funeral pyre of her husband), kidnapping and rape, considered asuric or demonic, are as common. This attitude of women as disposable is also common in the U.S., the Middle East and really any place with patriarchal religions or religions that have been altered by invasions of countries with patriarchal religions. An example is the United States, the indigenous peoples of North America practiced religions or spirituality that held women as equals until it was “discovered” by people from Europe. The wars of believers in male gods “proving” via war and territorial one up man ship, that they have the one REAL god or the one REAL religion plays out on the bodies of women in one degree or another on every continent on the planet.
Why is that? How did we go from a place where women were honored and respected and rape was inconceivable, to a place where women are treated as little more than intelligent animals to be used and tossed away? This is the topic that I am and will continue to study in more depth. My working theory, at this time, works in concert with Marija Gimbutas's theory that a Goddess loving equalitarian society was overrun by the Kurgans, a nomadic warlike culture that worshiped a violent sky God. While I do agree with a lot of her findings there is no explanation as to why the Kurgans started worshiping a violent sky God. Joan Marler has since updated and revised Gimbutas's work and it is this work that will need further investigation.
It is my belief that unless and until we elevate Goddess to an equally venerated position as God we will continue to use and discard women and children, particularly female children, and to use and destroy the earth. My working theory at this time is based on the idea of a hierarchical demonization of Goddess and all things female:
Goddess and Consort
Goddess and God
God and Wife
God and Consort
With each change the status of women and the earth decreased. Women have been resisting these changes every step of the way, but as God based religions and patriarchal rule gained hegemony they also gained control of historical records and were/are able to control the flow and content of information. This plays out via searches on search engines such as Google; search for “ancient philosophers” you will not find any women. Do a search for “ancient women philosophers” and you will find lots of women, women who were, in fact, the teachers of many of the men in the “ancient philosophers” search. It also is apparent if one goes to an open source research tool such as Wikipedia, which I do not advise if one is trying to research anything to do with women, feminism or Goddess worship. Look up “feminism” on Urban Dictionary to see how men define the word, and by extension, women.
While it is frustrating to search for women's resistance to patriarchal structure and religious restrictions, it is not impossible. One must first assume that women have done important work in the past, something that many people, female as well as male, simply do not think to do. Once that assumption is made you need find only a few women who have “made it” to the list of important historical figures. Once there you will start to see other women and then it is a bunny trail to an amazing history of women's accomplishments and, women's accomplishments erased by simply not including them in required reading, or in general historical records or search engine searches. This erasure creates a sort of resignation in women.
The general culture and beliefs created by the patriarchal religious hegemony translated into a political and cultural normative tells us that women are to be wives and mothers and not revolutionaries, scientists, professors, doctors, politicians. Both girls and boys are taught this, both men and women learn to accept this as truth. This is problematic when there ARE female revolutionaries, scientists, professors, doctors etc. Boys will grow into men that mock women who live outside the social constructs. Girls will grow into women that either, accept the societal norm and conform or spend their whole lives fighting to do what they want to do. While these societal norms are changing they are not yet changed.
The depth and breadth of the reach of patriarchal theology translated into the politically normative and then into cultural norms, in all its guises, to demean the value of all things female is daunting. But it is changing. Women around the world are growing weary. They, we, know that we can be raped or killed remaining silent, so millions of women around the world are fighting back. We truly have nothing else to lose and everything to gain. Many men also join in the struggle because it is time. This week the Prime Minister of Canada appointed his cabinet. Fifty percent of his appointees were women and the full cabinet was full of diversity. When the press asked him why so many women he replied, “Because it is 2015.”
It is 2015. It is definitely time for gender equality.
This paper was written and waiting for me to add the references when Daesh decided it was a good idea to send suicide bombers into Paris and kill innocent people (November 13, 2015). Daesh likes to call themselves the “Islamic State” except they have no state, unless one calls insanity a state. This attack is a perfect example of Abrahamic religions fighting with other Abrahamic religions to show who's “god” is better, stronger, better able to strike fear in the hearts of everyone. These religions started with Abraham being willing to sacrifice his son and now continue with followers of Abrahamic religions willing to kill anyone at anytime to prove they are the “real” believers, the “real” followers of God.
Many “good” Christians are calling for death for all of the followers of Daesh. How is that any different? The West, “read Christian states,” has been dropping bombs and using drones to kill “targeted” terrorists and killing thousands of innocents for years. How is this different from what Daesh is doing? It is not. It is exactly the same. This eye for an eye shit that continues is going to leave us all blind. We are polluting our planet beyond repair while killing each other off in droves. This God is not good for us. This God is not good for them. This God is a spiteful, mean and vengeful God and if we as a planet, continue to follow these religions based on overpowering others, subjugating women and children and generally using everyone and everything to obtain vengeance, none of us will live through it.
We do not judge all Christians by the actions of Timothy McVay, Charles Manson, Hitler or members of Operation Rescue. We cannot judge innocent Muslims for the actions of the lunatic fringe within their religion. If we want peace we will have to acknowledge our part in creating the lunatic fringe via hate mongering of the right AND of the left, of Christians AND Muslims AND Jews of misogynists of all religions and, admittedly often earned, misandry in all religions. I don't have all the answers or even any answers other than to scream NO!!!
I do know that what we, as a species, are doing is not working and it is time to do something different. Very, very different.
By Liona Rowan. An excerpt from the Girl God Anthology, Jesus, Mohammad and the Goddess.
Liona Rowan is Founder and Priestess in Residence of 10K Sanctuary Goddess Temple and Retirement Community. Liona Rowan completed a traditional year and a day apprenticeship in Eclectic Wicca in 1995 and was initiated as a priestess in July of that same year. Ms. Rowan has a master’s degree in Humanities with a Women’s Studies emphasis from Dominican University in San Rafael, California and a terminal master’s degree in Philosophy and Religion with an emphasis in Women’s Spirituality from California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, California. She is a co-founder of OCHRE Journal of Women’s Spirituality (www.ochrejournal.org). Ms. Rowan has participated in planning and priestessing both public and private rituals for more than 18 years. Ms. Rowan is also a beekeeper.
M.Gimbutas - Kurgan Culture - TurkicWorld. (2012, November 18). Retrieved November 2, 2015, from http://s155239215.onlinehome.us/turkic/btn_Archeology/Gimbutas/GimbutasMKurgansToEuropeEn.htm
Hay, M. (2014, November 21). Female Monks Challenge Buddhism's Misogynistic TendenciesÂ . Retrieved November 2, 2015, from http://magazine.good.is/articles/feminist-buddhism
Hindstrom, H. (2013, July 1). Monks and misogyny- DVB Multimedia Group. Retrieved November 2, 2015, from http://www.dvb.no/analysis/monks-and-misogyny/29108
Lendman, S. (2015, May 7). Netanyahu Forms New Racist, Fascist Government. Retrieved November 2, 2015, from http://www.globalresearch.ca/netanyahu-forms-new-racist-fascist-government/5447958
Marler, Joan. The Beginnings of Patriarchy in Europe: Reflections on the Kurgan Theory of Marija Gimbutas. (2005). In The Rule of Mars: Readings on the Origins, History and Impact on Patriarchy (pp. 53-76). Manchester, Connecticut: Knowledge, Ideas & Trends (KIT).
Ravi. (2011, May 29). Women in Hinduism Part 1. Retrieved November 2, 2015, from http://dharmadeen.com/2011/05/29/hindu-women/